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November 23rd, 2005 Joe Dixon, Jessi Kramer, Amy Mccullough | Album Reviews
 

LIVE, VIDEO AND ALBUM REVIEWS

     
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Still from Viva Voce "Wrecking Ball" video (Director: Mari Umemura & Jonathan Pound))

Greyday Productions Record Release - Nov. 17 at Doug Fir

Minmae shines through local label's showcase of dead ends.

[rock] Last Thursday night a coterie of Portland indie rockers gathered to celebrate the release of 20 Nights of Wine and Song. The 20th offering from the local music purveyors at Greyday Productions since the label's inception three and a half years ago, 20 Nights aims to showcase the best of what Greyday has to offer, and on wax (or in this case, polycarbonate plastic) it does a pretty good job. A little indie pop here, some avant-noise there, stir in a touch of electro, and ta-da! A pretty solid, if uneven, little Portland record label, eager to show the world what it might be missing. And what better way to ensure the world hears this stuff than a CD release show featuring a few of Greyday's more notable bands?

Generally, I avoid label showcases like the suburbs, in that they too are often cobbled together with little regard for aesthetic cohesion. Last week's show at the Doug Fir was, unfortunately, not an exception to that rule, coming off as the musical equivalent of a cul-de-sac. The safely pedestrian (and vaguely Built to Spill-ish) musical stylings of the Empty didn't coalesce with singer Sean Dant's over-the-top take on emotive vocal delivery, and the sort of kitchen-sink approach to indie-rock taken by John Larsen—while not entirely unpleasant—was lacking grit and vibrancy. Most impressive was Sean Brooks and his band Minmae, indie-rock journeymen who've been honing their brand of Lou Reed-affected guitar pop in local bars and basements for years. And while not breaking any new ground, Minmae was certainly confident and able on a night plagued by prosaic stage antics and uninspired songwriting. At last, I felt like I was out of the cul-de-sacs and back on the sidewalk-lined city streets of Portland. JOE DIXON.

Go to twentynights.com for more info on the Greyday compilation.

Sound Seen Music Video Review

Viva Voce "Wrecking Ball" Director: Mari Umemura & Jonathan Pound

Not only has Viva Voce managed to release a whopping three videos in the past 10 months, but, in doing so, the local husband-wife duo has cornered the market on music videos that use experimental animation to bend the consciousness of anyone within eyeshot. This is not a bad thing, considering how Kevin and Anita Robinson's aesthetic, from their White Album-meets-Pink Floyd sound to a recent concert in 3-D, has a definite psychedelic vibe. While not as cohesive as its forebears—"Alive with Pleasure" and "Centre of the Universe"—"Wrecking Ball" still manages to impress, reviving the song, a high point on the band's 2003 release, Lovers, Lead the Way! (the band has since released 2004's The Heat Can Melt Your Brain). For most of the video, directing team Umemura and Pound laid '60s-style animation over concert footage of the band, creating a swirling world of birds, butterflies, and, of course, Anita and Kevin. Later in the video, the duo is given another treatment when the directors paint the duo as a Japanese-inspired dog and cat frolicking in a garden. Although it seems to be two distinct video ideas, it's the coda that keeps me watching this video over and over. Just when you think the video (and the song) are over, a singing she-flower appears onscreen, mouthing out Anita's vocals before sparkly colorful explosions dance on the screen as Viva Voce drives the song home. It's fucking glorious. The video may be a bit fragmented, but that ending makes this a must-see. JESSI KRAMER.

See the video at www.studioplum.co.uk.

In The Red - Kind Of Like Spitting (Hush Records)

Ben Barnett's sharp tongue is painfully honest, and don't we know it.

[POST-FOLK] "I live in a town where the weeklies are just trash," sings Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett during the first 30 seconds of In the Red, the Portland singer-songwriter's eighth album. And though the prolific Hush Records artist stabs me where it hurts, that's exactly what I love about his music: its painful honesty.

But Barnett's sound has changed in other ways, his heart-wrenching acoustic ballads largely missing from In the Red, giving way to a bit more of the rock. However, In the Red doesn't skimp on the singer/songwriter's know-you-all-too-well lyrics and ferocious acoustic strumming.

Though Barnett does emulate obvious influences like Bob Dylan (see "Songs for Annie's Harmonica"), In the Red contains some more contemporary sonic rip-offs. The completely awesome "We Fell All Over You" instantly brings to mind Why?'s Yoni Wolf, while the aptly titled "All Hail" is the closest Barnett comes to mimicking another's style, in this case local singer Hutch Harris of the Thermals. Being compared to Why? and the Thermals is far from a dis, but I expect each Kind of Like Spitting record to be 100 percent Barnett, so it's a little off-putting.

A handful of tunes on In the Red are, in fact, 100 percent KOLS: "Finishing," the oh-so-Barnettly titled "Worker Bee #7438-F87904" and, yes, the WW-slamming opener, "Aubergine." But the crowning jewel of In the Red—and the epitome of a Kind of Like Spitting song—is the super-brief, biting and burning "Per Se Wha?!" Whether it's Barnett's rough, breaking voice or piercing delivery, when he yells with all his vocal might over sparse, singular, power-strums, "Are you happy with what you've got?", it feels like 10 years of therapy wrapped into a beautifully tight minute-and-a-half package. AMY MCCULLOUGH.


Go to www.twentynights.com for more info on the Greyday compilation.

See the video at www.studioplum.co.uk .

 
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